Self Awareness Leadership – 7 Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Self awareness leadership is about identifying where you would like to do better.  One place to focus, is on how to be a better listener.  Great listening is often a precursor to great leading.

Be a Better ListenerA key component of self awareness in leadership is recognizing when you are able to hear the nuances of an other’s communication.  When you understand better – you are able to serve better.

Understanding someone’s underlying needs and values,  and then being able to best meet those needs in servant leadership – can be one of those great gifts we can give to another.

Yet, it’s not just about listening more and talking less.

Here are 7 tips on how to be a better listener:

1. Listen to yourself first.   Is there something you need to clear or take care of so that you can be a great listener? If you are exhausted or have your own stuff going on; sometimes the best form of self management is to admit it’s not the best time for you to listen. Take the time to clear things for yourself first, so that you can be an empty vessel for the other person’s expression.

If your vessel is already full;  it’s really hard to give empathy to another when you haven’t yet given it to yourself.

2. Be really present.  If you find you are crafting your response “BEFORE” the other person is finished speaking; it’s a sign that you are not being 100% present with them.   It’s easy to forget that we can think a lot faster than we can talk.  Realizing we still have plenty of time to create a response “after” they have completed their expression, is key.

Being 100% in your personal presence also allows you to listen more from non-judgmental awareness. You can then understand the other person rather than to achieve either agreement from or change in that person.

3. Use Verbal cues to demonstrate you are listening.  The words and the vocal tone you use to express yourself, can show the other with a verbal acknowledgement you are both hearing and understanding their communication.   It’s very common for some folks to have a “need” to be heard.

Demonstrating that you do indeed hear them – can be a wonderful gift.  You can use such verbal cues such as expressing empathy, re-stating the essence of what you heard, or helping the other person  to expand their own thinking.

4. Use non-verbal cues to demonstrate you are listening. Subtle body language like “leaning in” can be very soothing to the person you are listening to.  This kind of body geography also gives you greater access to your own feeling senses as well.

5. Listen to more than just the words.  Listen for meaning , values and needs.  When you get to really understand the intention for their communication as well as their possible desires for fulfilment – it then gives you lots of opportunity to recognize how you can be of service.

When you understand what is truly important to someone – it’s a lot easier to serve with effectiveness and compassion.

6. Support the others’ self expression. The best way to support an other’s self expression is to listen as if you where in their shoes.  When you take an empathetic stance– you gain a desire to follow their path instead of projecting your own feelings and ideas onto the other person.  It allows you to be open and non protective, so that you can more easily focus on the other person.

It also provides the opportunity to imagine the perspectives and experiences of the other person; rather than just assuming they are the same as your own.

7. Use silence effectively. Allowing someone to vent or clear with their expression can often give the other the space to move forward with greater certainty  faster than if you had filled the space with words.  Using exercises, like a mindful listening exercise is a great way to practice silence while listening to different levels of communication.

Listen for people to say to you, “I loved our conversation”  when you become a better listener.

What additional tips do you have to help someone learn how to listen better?

Here is a link a great exercise from Kevin Eikenberry from http://blog.kevineikenberry.com   on how to take a listening tour

4 Daily Practices for Lightening up Your Personal Leadership Style

Here are 4 daily habits that can assist you in experiencing more lightness:

1. Be impeccably mindful of time

There is nothing that takes away the sense of lightness of being faster – than having to rush to an appointment, fret that you will be late – and then run in huffing and puffing  just to find out that you just made it – or you are a few minutes late.      Lightness of being around time, is to give yourself enough time and energy to enjoy the journey – breathe and rest before – and know you are early for your appointment. Being well prepared for your appointments also brings lightness when your energy can then be directed where it is most effective instead of in the chaos of rubbing up against a time deadline.

Being more fully aware of time for some this is a natural gift – and for others it is one of those things to choose to be conscious about.    If you are one of those folks that gets caught up in what you are doing and you loose track of time – you may want to set up small structures to support you to be mindful of time. (alarms, notes , egg timers, mindful bells.)

There is also a mind shift to make here – from being “right on time” to being 5 minutes early is on time.  It’s a subtle shift to make – but it is an inspiring one.

2. Listen for deep understanding and double your curiosity

There is a dramatic difference between listening to respond and listening to understand.

You can test this out for yourself  the next time you are in a conversation with someone.  Are you already formulating what you next need to say – before the other person has finished what they are saying?  If so – that is a good clue that you are not yet skilled at listening for understanding.   One way of practicing this is to wait till the other person is finished – and then ask a question to expand more about what they have said.    Listen for there response and then – only then – formulate your next words.    One of the things that makes this easier to do is to realize  you can think a lot faster than you believe you already do.

3. Watch Your Language

The language we use has amazing power, and often more power than we realize.  If you are a sensitive soul you may already recognize this.   For example using language that expresses angry, harm, war or aggression has an effect on the energy of people.   For example: “let’s hit that target” vs “let’s reach our goals”  . I am sure you could identify a list of things you use in your every day language…..   The key here is to recognize that for some there is a dramatic difference on how they internalize the language.  To increase your lightness – consciously try using softer, kinder, more loving  phraseology and see if you notice a difference in your own lightness or in the lightness of those around you.

4. Look for the best of what is  – instead of  what is not working

Taking an appreciative view and way is one good way to lighten up your leadership style.  There is still an accepted expectation out there in the world for us to look for what isn’t working – look for the gaps in things – and then try to fix them.  Instead – try a perspective of leveraging what is already working extremely well – and then leap frog from there to what would be ideal.  It accomplishes the same innovation – without the energy of focusing on the negative. It’s a lighter approach that inspires.